February 17, 2012

Using Queues in Web Crawling and Analysis Infrastructure

Message oriented middleware (MOM) is a key technology for implementing a custom pipeline and analyzing unstructured data. The pipeline for going from crawling web pages to part of speech tagging (PoST) and beyond is long. It requires a variety of processes which are implemented in several different programming languages and operating systems. For example, boilerpipe is an excellent Java library for extracting main text content while PoSTs libraries, like NLTK or FreeLing, are implemented in Python.

One might be tempted to integrate different technologies using web services but web services alone have many weak points. If the pipeline has ten processes and, for example, the last one fails, then the intermediate processes can be lost if they are not persisted. There must be a higher level mechanism in place to resume the pipeline processing. MOMs ensure message persistence until a consumer acknowledges that a specific process has finished.

There are a lot of MOMs to choose from, including commercial and free open source variants. Some features are present in almost all of them while others are not. Contention management is an important feature if you are dealing, as is likely, with a high ratio of messages produced to messages consumed at any one time. For example, a web crawler can fetch web pages at an incredibly high speed while processes like content extraction take longer. Running a message queue without contention management under these circumstances will exhaust the machine’s memory.

While MOMs are important for uniting heterogeneous technologies, the different processes must also know which queues to utilize to consume the input and produce the output for the next phases. A new wave of frameworks like NServiceBusResque, Celery, and Octobot has emerged to handle this.

In conclusion, MOMs help to connect heterogeneous technologies and bring robustness, and are very useful in the context of unstructured information like text analysis. Many MOMs are available, but there is not a single one with a complete feature set. However some of these features can be supplied by frameworks such as NServiceBus, Resque, Celery, and Octobot.

See Also

  1. Esoteric Queue Scheduling Disciplines
  2. Persisting Native Python Queues
  3. Adding Acknowledgement Semantics to a Persistent Queue


  1. Message Queues vs Web Services
  2. Message Queue Evaluation Notes
  3. The Hadoop Map-Reduce Capacity Scheduler
  4. Contention Management in the WSA
  5. Message Queuing Architectures
December 22, 2011

Running Your Own Anonymous Rotating Proxies

Rotating Proxies with HAProxy

Most web browsers and scrapers can only be configured to use one proxy per protocol. You can get around this limitation by running different instances of browsers and scrapers. Google Chrome and Firefox allow multiple profiles. However, running hundreds of browser instances is unwieldy.

A better option is to set up your own proxy to rotate among a set of Tor proxies.The Tor application implements a SOCKS proxy. Start multiple Tor instances on one or more machines and networks, then configure and run an HTTP load balancer to expose a single point of connection instead of adding the rotating logic within the client application. On the Distributed Scraping With Multiple Tor Circuits article we learned how to set up multiple Tor SOCKS proxies for web scraping and crawling. However our sample code launched multiple threads each of which uses a different proxy. In this example we use the HAProxy load balancer with a round-robin strategy to rotate our proxies.

When you are dealing with web crawling and scraping sites with Javascript, using a real browser with a high performance Javascript engine like V8 may be the best approach. Just configuring our rotating proxy in the browser does the trick. Another option is using HTMLUnit but the the V8 Javascript Engine parses web pages and runs Javascript more quickly. If you are using a browser you must be particularly careful to keep the scraped site from correlating your multiple requests. Try disabling cookies, local storage, and image loading, and only enabling Javascript, indeed, you need to cache as many requests as possible. If you need to support cookies, you have to run different browsers with different profiles.

Setup and Configuration


  1. Tor
  2. DeleGate
  3. HAProxy

HAProxy Configuration File


        maxconn 256

        mode http
        timeout connect 5000ms
        timeout client 50000ms
        timeout server 50000ms

frontend rotatingproxies
        bind *:3128
        default_backend tors
        option http_proxy

backend tors
        option http_proxy
        server tor1 localhost:3129
        server tor1 localhost:3130
        server tor1 localhost:3131
        server tor1 localhost:3132
        server tor1 localhost:3133
        server tor1 localhost:3134
        server tor1 localhost:3135
        server tor1 localhost:3136
        server tor1 localhost:3137
        server tor1 localhost:3138
        balance roundrobin


Run the following script, which launches many instances of Tor. Then runs one instance of delegated per Tor, and finally runs HAProxy to rotate the proxy servers. We have to use DeleGate because HAProxy does not support SOCKS.

base_http_port=3129 # leave 3128 for HAProxy

# Create data directory if it doesn't exist
if [ ! -d "data" ]; then
	mkdir "data"

#for i in {0..10}
for i in {0..9}

	if [ ! -d "data/tor$i" ]; then
		echo "Creating directory data/tor$i"
		mkdir "data/tor$i"
	# Take into account that authentication for the control port is disabled. Must be used in secure and controlled environments

	echo "Running: tor --RunAsDaemon 1 --CookieAuthentication 0 --HashedControlPassword \"\" --ControlPort $control_port --PidFile tor$i.pid --SocksPort $socks_port --DataDirectory data/tor$i"

	tor --RunAsDaemon 1 --CookieAuthentication 0 --HashedControlPassword "" --ControlPort $control_port --PidFile tor$i.pid --SocksPort $socks_port --DataDirectory data/tor$i

	echo 	"Running: ./delegate/src/delegated -P$http_port SERVER=http SOCKS=localhost:$socks_port"

	./delegate/src/delegated -P$http_port SERVER=http SOCKS=localhost:$socks_port

haproxy -f rotating-tor-proxies.cfg

See Also

  1. Distributed Scraping With Multiple Tor Circuits
  2. Web Scraping Ajax and Javascript Sites


  1. HAProxy The Reliable, High Performance TCP/HTTP Load Balancer
  2. DeleGate Multi-Purpose Application Level Gateway
  3. Python twisted proxyclient cascade / upstream to squid
  4. How SOPA’s ‘circumvention’ ban could put a target on Tor